What Happens When Your Au Pair Arrives — Unable to Work?

by cv harquail on May 19, 2017

This mom’s Au Pair has a very specific injury that is preventing the Au Pair from doing the job she’s needed to do.  

Sure, it’s an injury from which the Au Pair will recover — eventually. But until then? 

523894033_f174c12869_mWhile few Au Pairs arrive in the USA wearing a cast or a sling, many arrive with other health-related constraints (and even emotional constraints) that are temporary and problematic. Rising above the specifics of this situation —

  • When should Host Parents just roll with it until the Au Pair heals? And when should Host Parents just send the Au Pair back?

  • Who’s responsible for assuming the costs and wasted time/energy?

  • What’s the Au Pair Agency’s responsibility?

 

Dear Au Pair Mom —

We are hosting our third au pair who arrived last week. Our then current au pair showed us a picture about 3 weeks ago that our current au pair sent her of a swollen ankle. I asked her (while she was still in her home country) about it. She said she went to the doctor, and her ankle was sprained, not broken.

I know sprains take time to heal and I considered canceling the match then because walking our kids to and from school (.4 miles each way) is a necessity of the job. But she told me they anticipated she would be able to walk on it in a few weeks.

When she arrived, she clearly couldn’t walk (she was wearing a boot but only putting weight on her heal). We have a friend who is a physical therapist who looked at it and told us to get new x-rays, which we did last night. X-Rays show a broken bone. It’s been recommended that the Au Pair refrain from weight bearing movement for 6 weeks. She will need to see podiatry for casting sometime this coming week.

Our agency said we can decide if we want to send her home and rematch or wait it out. The Au Pair desperately does not want to go home–she was waiting for about a year when we matched and her initial visa was denied, so it has been an intense and difficult process for her (and for us).

We aren’t super invested as she has only been here a week. But our kids like her, I don’t want to force them through another adjustment to someone new, and I’m not sure that we would get someone here in 6 weeks anyways, unless we found someone in country.

I know a lot if host parents say they will go above and beyond for a rock star au pair but we don’t even know if she will be a rock star yet.

What do people generally do when the au pair arrives more injured that you knew?

Thank you!  Host Mom of Non-Weight Bearing Au Pair

Image by Soccerkrys on Flickr

{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

Something Clever May 19, 2017 at 9:39 am

I would go into rematch immediately and seek an in country AP to replace her. I have had to rematch twice in over 8 years and found that this process is much easier than I expected.

As for the AP with the broken ankle, of course she doesn’t want to go home, but you make it about the duties, not feelings. Believe me, APs know how to defend their rights when the shoe is on the other foot.

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NJ Mom May 19, 2017 at 9:50 am

If we were in this situation I would start looking for a new AP immediately. At least you can get a new AP in time for summer when the kids are out of school. And also the summer pool of AP tends to be larger, so finding an AP to arrive in June/July should be easier than a May arrival date.

Your new AP came to the US under false pretenses. Of course she doesn’t want to go home, she lied to even get here in the first place. Now it’s going to take medical intervention to heal and I’m guessing quite a bit of PT after to regain the lost muscle functionality during the 10 weeks of limited mobility (3 weeks in her country, 1 week here, future 6 weeks).

All the while, this is not what you agreed to and now you’re left with 2 options neither of which are great. AP made a very poor decision that impacts not only her, but your entire family. Is this the person you want taking care of your children for a year? Can you really trust her decision making? What’s to say she’s not going to lie about things in the future because she felt the truth would jeopardize her year here?

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NoVA Twin Mom May 19, 2017 at 9:53 am

For me, the first question would be if you can even function with her in her condition. CAN she drive? I know that your kids usually walk to school, but could she drive them for a few weeks instead? Is there anyone that you can get to carpool/walk your kids to school while she can’t? If you absolutely can’t function as a family with her in this condition, your decision might be made for you.

Secondarily, if she is unable to walk/drive the kids to school, is there enough that she CAN do to make keeping her viable? Otherwise you basically have an exchange student for six weeks – one that you’re paying to be here!

As for “rockstar ness” early in her year, how is she acting while all of this is going on? Is she TRYING to help? Is she finding ways to do what she can? If she’s making a sincere effort to do what she can (rather than, say, lounging on the couch while you wait on her because her foot hurts), she may be a rockstar in the making. The fact that the kids like her is a HUGE factor toward making things work if she’s putting in an effort.

Can you get a look at the rematch pool for your agency, or have your LCC look for you? Is there even anyone there that would work for you? Sometimes the au pair you know is better than a wildcard.

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NoVA Twin Mom May 19, 2017 at 9:58 am

I see the comments above encouraging rematch. Yes, rematch is definitely an option. But both times we’ve rematched (twice in seven years/eight au pairs) there hasn’t been anyone in the rematch pool that would work for us, so we had to wait six weeks for an out of country match. Agencies discourage (for good reasons) “shopping” the rematch pool before deciding to rematch, but in this case – as the rematch would be due to circumstances outside anyone’s control (and yes, I’d say this is outside the au pair’s control as well, as she must have been in great pain to “hide” a break) – I’d encourage you to ask your LCC if it’s possible.

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Original Poster May 19, 2017 at 11:18 am

A few things: she has been generally helpful around the house. I do think she is trying.

BUT–yesterday was the kids’ short day at school, where they get out at 12:15. She is responsible for watching them when they get home. She apparently forgot (though this is only week 2 and she has multiple calendars and was reminded by my husband earlier in the day) and went out on a lunch date. Fortunately, my husband had his grad students return exams so he was home, realized she wasn’t home, and called her to come home. She was initially defensive with him about it, and by the time I got home she was very sad and trying very hard to not get sent home.

We had a serious talk that we are strongly considering rematch at this point. We have made huge accommodations for her–using friends and family to do pick up and drop off at school, and to have her not do her job may be the straw that has broken us. She stated understanding and was not defensive with me. But, at this point it seems like too much. I worry about the kids, but I know they are resilient and will be ok.

The agency has told us we cannot shop the rematch pool (which is ridiculous in this circumstance I think).

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NoVA Twin Mom May 19, 2017 at 1:22 pm

So far I think I’m the only one that has been coming to her defense – and given your update she’s lost even my sympathy. If she can’t manage to hold it together to do the parts of her job that she CAN, rematch. I can’t help but wonder how she managed to get out for her lunch date, but can’t manage to get the kids to and from school.

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DMMom May 19, 2017 at 1:33 pm

You can always search rematch pools from other agencies. We did 3 agencies when we went into rematch at the beginning of an Au Pair year. I wanted to maximize my pool of candidates.

Hmmm, if this happened at our house and she became defensive my husband would have told her not to bother coming home, her job here is over and then he would have called me to find a new Au Pair. We have a crazy schedule with 3 kids and 3 calendars and not one of our 6 Au Pairs has forgot to get the kids.

I say rematch and start fresh.

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HRHM May 19, 2017 at 2:31 pm

So she is too injured to do her job but not too injured to go out on lunch dates? Hmmm, time to go home and lunch in her home country.

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Should be working May 19, 2017 at 12:25 pm

If you can make do for six weeks, I would ask the agency to drop six weeks of their fee, about $900. This is really an awful situation and I would likewise question the judgment and trustworthiness of the AP.

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NoVA Twin Mom May 19, 2017 at 12:47 pm

Definitely ask for an offset of the program fee. I do question how no one at training school noticed how she was walking, though. I realize that she didn’t advertise the problem – and it is very possible she knew it was worse than she was saying – but I’ve also experienced health care professionals being wrong about how bad an injury is. She may truly have been repeating what she was told.

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Spanishaupaur May 20, 2017 at 8:49 am

I once broke my nose when was a kid playing and doctors told me twice that it wasnt Broken. I have to wait almost a month when was back home (i was on hollidays) and asked another doctor Who without x-ray said i had It Broken and needed to go through surgery.

Im not defending her but i agree with nove twin mom that she might be saying what they told her as thats my experience

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Reluctant Grownup May 19, 2017 at 1:18 pm

Can you/she rent a wheelchair and roll the kids to school?

I agree that you should ask for the agency to offset their fees. And possibly consider her nonworking, but paid, days as vacation.

I also agree that this may have been a misdiagnosis instead of an outright lie. Is there any way to tell. Hosting someone dishonest is much more concerning (to me at least) that hosting someone temporarily incapacitated.

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Should be working May 19, 2017 at 1:32 pm

I love the wheelchair rental solution!! Or what about those little rolling things where one leg rests on the roller (sort of like those scooter things)?

Still if she missed a work slot and then got defensive, I’m less keen on finding solutions.

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Original Poster May 19, 2017 at 1:45 pm

The issue with a wheelchair, or knee scooter, or even crutches, is that our kids are 6 year old triplet boys. They are generally responsible, but I really do need someone who can grab them if they aren’t paying attention and walk into the street, or run after a friend.

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Original Poster May 19, 2017 at 1:44 pm

I think that it was a misunderstanding, and not an outright lie. But after the x-ray she called her mom and started crying, because her mom was chastising her for not resting as much as she should have. There are pictures of her walking all over NYC with a big boot. I think she is young (the youngest au pair we have ever had) and immature. Not great impulse control so she has probably made the foot worse.

And a boy came to pick her up for her lunch date.

I think she is not the right au pair for us. I am most concerned about the kids as they like her, but they will survive. I need us to survive too. She is making life harder, and not easier.

She doesn’t drive here–we don’t look at au pairs who drive because we live in a walkable neighborhood and they really don’t need to drive for us at all. If they want to, they can, but we do not need them to.

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NJ Mom May 19, 2017 at 3:28 pm

It sounds like you got a 4th child on your hands instead of an AP. Her priorities are out of line (missing work to go on a lunch date with a boy she just met?!?), and her level of maturity/responsibility is not suitable for taking care of your kids. Considering this is only her first 2 weeks (when APs tend to try their hardest), I can’t imagine it’s going to get any better.

I think that while your boys bonded with her over the last 2 weeks, in another couple of weeks they will greatly appreciate an AP who can keep up with them. One summer we had an AP who couldn’t drive in a location where you do have to drive to get anywhere. While my son didn’t complain, he admitted the next summer that he felt like he missed out on a lot of things.

It’s a shame your agency won’t let you check the re-match pool. The one time we were considering re-match, most of the in country APs listed were rematching due to lack of driving skills.

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Something Clever May 19, 2017 at 9:44 pm

OMG, I would have flipped at her sight seeing while claiming to be too lame to walk my kids to school and to work. That demonstrates so much of why she isn’t suited for being an AP.

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massmom May 22, 2017 at 2:52 pm

OP, any chance that you live in a “W” town north of Boston?

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HMinTX May 19, 2017 at 1:47 pm

I am still trying to figure out how she managed the lunch date but cannot get the kids to school. I was very close to the rematch line, until you said she missed the kids getting home early and was defensive with your husband…now I’m well over it. I’m currently in rematch, and I don’t know what agency you are with, but they are lots of rematch au pairs available right now.

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Reluctant Grownup May 19, 2017 at 1:58 pm

Wow, triplet boys. You do need someone quick on their feet. And maturity is really important. I hope rematch goes smoothly. I hope you find someone willing to take care of her health proactively (sleeping, eating, excercising, etc., not out all weekend and puzzled why she doesn’t feel peppy…). Having a real job helps hugely with this aspect of judgement.

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Original poster May 19, 2017 at 2:58 pm

I agree wholeheartedly. This is the first time we even considered someone without full-time work experience. Will not be doing that again

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Should be working May 19, 2017 at 5:03 pm

I can’t imagine what justification the agency would give for not allowing you access to the rematch pool. Your AP can’t work. What are you supposed to do? They want a “mediation” first, like “Ok, AP, in the next 2 weeks your ankle has to improve”??

I wonder if you can insist a bit more, as in go up a level of management. Or is the problem that they want you to commit to rematch before you can look?

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Original Poster May 19, 2017 at 5:23 pm

Yes, they want us to commit to rematch. Which we think we will do, but we are trying to find back up care for the meantime so that we aren’t dependent on her once we formally go into rematch.

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TexasHM May 20, 2017 at 12:34 pm

OP you’ve got it figured out. Get coverage, officially rematch and make decisions cool headed and you’ll be fine.

Here’s the only thing I haven’t heard brought up that I was thinking – it’s a safety issue. You have six year olds. You can’t have a caregiver that can’t walk/run/sprint if needed. One of them darts toward the street there’s no way she’s catching them.

I do feel for AP (giving her benefit of the doubt) if she broke it 3 weeks before coming and then was so terrified at the thought of losing her dream but downplaying/not getting it properly treated shows a major lack of maturity. That’s what a teenager would do that really wants to go to the dance. Not a mature adult that realizes it’s not all about her and has her priorities straight! You need a mature adult. With the context you’ve given I am not convinced that she would be a great AP even if her ankle was fine! You’ve already given several red flag examples and as others have said, you’re in the honeymoon phase where she’s giving 200%!!

Rematch and don’t look back. I’m afraid if you don’t you’ll reengineer your lives and then end up in rematch anyway after the kids are even more bonded.

We got an unbelievable french ER nurse out of rematch and I’ve housed two rematch APs that did great and found matches and both extended with those families successfully. There are gems in the rematch pool that get families that treat them less than human and would be grateful and contribute 100% day one. Gamechangers! Focus on that, rip the bandaid off and you’ll be SO glad you did.

There are consequences to actions. She lied about her abilities and that would get you fired from most jobs. Why is this different? I’d say it’s worse because kids are involved.

As others said if she had reinjured it at training school or at your house but then helped solve the problem (offered up her vacation two weeks, was proactive about treatment and doing dishes or whatever she could to contribute) I’d say create a plan together and try it out. None of that is the case here.

Did the agency call you when she was in training school? Or did she show up with no warning like this? If the latter I’d be pissed and in their ear. She should have received treatment there!

So sorry you’re dealing with this. Sucks all around but she made poor choices along the route now that make it impossible to continue. It’ll be months before she can do the job. She can reapply or not, stuff happens in life sometimes.

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Anonymous in CA May 20, 2017 at 12:40 pm

OP, re access to the rematch pool….one idea is to find a local AP facebook group and post to it that you’re with X agency and looking for an AP. I’m told that many APs in rematch post on those groups to spread the word among other APs to try to find a family. I’ve never done that and not at all sure how I’d even find such a facebook group, but our former AP mentioned this to me since we are trying to manage things without an AP – she said if I ever needed to find an AP very quickly, this would be a very effective way. Of course, your current AP might likely also be on such a group, so that’s something to think about. It’s just a thought if you want to get a sense of the rematch pool.

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2 kids and a cat May 21, 2017 at 8:04 am

I have three kids K and under, so we also need a fully able-bodied AP to keep up with the kids. I can see how she made her choices, but the fact that she showed up in no condition to physically chase after 3 kids (or play outside games, etc., etc.) tells me she underestimated the scope of her AP responsibilities and is a little immature or inexperienced.
But, this shouldn’t be on you to be paying her, the agency, and scrambling to find child care. You need to do what is best for your family. I mentioned this in the other post, but the agencies collect a significant profit and *should be able to* better help APs in temporary health situations so that it doesn’t become a guilt-ridden decision for a family that needs to function. They are the J-1 sponsor, which is just as important as the host.

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WestMom May 21, 2017 at 3:32 pm

I will be brief. This a rematch. Did I miss something of did she not tell you about the injury and you found out form your departing AP? And how was the broken bone missed? I wonder if she might have purposely deceived you because she was so desperate to come about the one year wait.

The lunch date incident would have taken me over the edge, broken foot or not. That is her ONLY JOB to be home on time for your kids. That is the nail in the coffin (I would be more lenient under normal circumstances, but here, nope.)

The easy part is letting her go. The tough one is finding someone else quickly and getting ALL you money back from the agency for the trouble this AP has put you in. She should not have come to the US to start with and as far as I am concerned, they share some of the blame for this. I am not sure how your agency operates but you should not lose anything out of this transaction.

So sorry you are going through this OP. Doesn’t mean AP is a bad person, but she has put you in a bad situation and she must go.

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nina May 21, 2017 at 8:55 pm

I would be so stressed about the situation and would go into rematch as soon as you have backup figured out. We just went into rematch after finding a babysitter while are interviewing au pairs for end of August arrival.

I would expect an au pair with a broken bone to get out of her way to find ways to be helpful and that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Good luck.

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Original poster May 21, 2017 at 9:13 pm

Thank you everyone. Our plan is rematch but we can’t do that until
We find an alternative. The agency is still not letting us look at the pool (aupaircare) so we feel stuck until school is out. Once school is out we have camps that we can do to get over the hump. But until then we don’t feel like we can rematch with no childcare plans. She isn’t great (understatement) but she does seem to be trying extra hard right now, and we are stuck. She knows this is probationary until the end of school at which point we will have a meeting and make a plan.

For anyone reading this, this is reason 1000 to trust your gut when matching. I had doubts but didn’t want to start over. Should have started over instead of settling.

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WestMom May 21, 2017 at 11:33 pm

Original poster, don’t know when school ends for you, but for us there is still 3 weeks. That is a long time to let things sour even longer. Check out care.com or sittercity and I am certain you can get someone within a few days. Really, the longer you wait, the harder you will make it on yourself. By then, her injury might be better. What will you do then?

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2 kids and a cat May 22, 2017 at 7:41 am

Their position is ridiculous: You can’t commit to rematch unless you know you have someone, but you can’t have someone if you can’t see the rematch pool.
Can you push a little harder with the agency – ask to speak with someone else higher up. Remind them how much you have paid for their services and that you have an AP who cannot safely perform the duties for which you took her. Even if you can’t see profiles, give them a list of 3-5 criteria and ask them how many potential transition candidates they have who might be suitable for your family. You can also match with a transition candidate from another agency (CCAP has all of theirs on the website, and all you have to do is register for free to peruse the profiles) — since this was so early and you received an incapacitated AP, you should be able to get a full refund and just sign up with the new agency to match with one of their candidates.

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Original Poster May 22, 2017 at 2:55 pm

I will push the agency harder. They already told us that if we do not rematch we will get about a 5,000 refund (out of the 8500 program fee). So that sucks, and we are feeling like we have to work with that agency. I did look at CCAP and saw one extension candidate who looked good. We are lucky to live in a desirable place, which hopefully helps.

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HMinTX May 22, 2017 at 2:58 pm

I’m in APC rematch right now. I can probably help give you an idea of the current rematch options, if you are interested.

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WorkingTWINmom May 22, 2017 at 9:30 am

Im going to agree with others when they suggest rematch. Also, push with the agency. I am also with AuPairCare and I don’t think they care about their Au Pairs or their families and am in the process of looking for a new agency. You have someone who can’t do their job, on top of it, she forgot your kids were getting home at noon. What would have happened if your husband had not been home? Im sorry but she needs to go.

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